Nearly twice as many varsity athletes are trained Sexual Misconduct Advisors (SMAs) this year compared to previous years. Increased participation by athletes in the program is in response to a demand from players and coaches for more support with sexual misconduct and Title IX at Kenyon, according to Nicole Keller, interim co-director of counseling services and the SMA faculty liaison.
“We’ve always had a few [athletes], but this year we’ve particularly tried to recruit a few more that we knew could help provide us with some extra support,” Keller said.
SMAs are a group of students and staff who are trained in Title IX, a federal policy that addresses sexual and gender-based discrimination, harassment and violence, according to the College’s website. SMAs provide confidential support to anyone at Kenyon who has experienced a form of sexual misconduct or has been accused of sexual misconduct. This year, five of the 25 SMAs are varsity athletes. They include a swimmer, a men’s basketball player, a field hockey player and both a men’s and women’s soccer player.
Meredith Rogers ’19, a women’s soccer player, was hired last May to become an SMA for this school year.
A returning SMA, Lauren Castelbaum ’19, reached out to Rogers directly and encouraged her to apply late last semester.
“They specifically asked me because they knew they wanted more athletes,” Rogers said. “I think athletes were being underserved. It wasn’t as well-utilized. I think it’s because there weren’t as many faces that you knew. Putting faces and names to an organization is important.”
Once Rogers was hired last spring, she met with Keller to think of other athletes who would be interested in becoming SMAs. Rogers says they reached out to someone on almost every varsity team. Sarah Speroff ’18, a women’s field hockey player, was already an SMA. Four more athletes applied, and three were accepted into the program.
This focus on including athletes is a test run to see how representation of SMAs in specific groups on campus affects their participation in the program. If it goes well this year with athletes, SMAs will try to recruit students from other groups on Kenyon’s campus, such as international students and the LGBTQ+ community. There are currently several SMAs who are involved in Greek life.
“We’re going to try to hit as many populations as we can just to let them know what we are as a resource,” Keller said.
The group of athlete SMAs will also work with Athlete’s Corner, a discussion series created last year to open a dialogue on team cultures at Kenyon. Discussion topics include alcohol and hook-up culture at Kenyon. Keller said she doesn’t know yet exactly what role SMAs will play in Athletes Corner. “We’re still trying to figure that out,” she said.
In addition to the increase in varsity athlete representation in the program, SMAs are trying to increase their presence elsewhere on campus. This year, every hall and Community Advisor on campus is assigned an SMA. Keller hopes increased involvement in living spaces will encourage more students to take advantage of the support their fellow students can offer.
“We know that peers will go to other peers first,” she said.
SMAs will continue their Survivors Small Group program this year and are considering starting another program for students who have experienced childhood sexual abuse.
By Sophie Alexander